In Part One of this series, we began writing our business plan by focusing on the nuts and bolts of our business. In this section, we will start to expand on those roots and add to the "what" by knowing our "why".
To this point in our business planning, you should have identified your competitive edge as a photographer, identified a market in need with the resources to pay to address it, and developed a product based on your strengths to fulfill that need.
If a company description is the prose, the mission statement is the poetry. What is the larger reason for your company to be in business? Yes, you are going to create a business selling family portraits to families in Orange County. But why are you going to do that? Aside from a physical print, what are you actually offering them? Twenty years from now, when those aging parents and now grown children look back at that old photograph hanging over the mantel, they won’t see a picture at all. They’ll be seeing a time and place in their lives. They won’t be reacting to your top notch lighting. They’ll be reacting emotionally to the connection they have as a family. In short, you’re not selling photographs, you’re selling memories.
Your mission statement is where you go beyond the want and focus on the need. What greater need are you serving by creating your business. Are you improving the world in a larger way? Are you disrupting business as usual? Besides just generating wealth, what is it that you want out of this.
Have you ever been sitting in a job interview and been asked the following question: “Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten years?” From experience, I can say that I’ve always found the question supremely annoying. How the heck am I supposed to know where I’ll be in five years? I don’t know where I’ll be five days from now! Of course, the reason why I always found that question so incredibly difficult to answer was most likely due to the fact that I was applying for a job I never really even wanted in the first place. The idea that I would still be there in five years, let alone angling for upper management, must have automatically caused my brain to shut down to protect itself from the thought.
But if you’re willing to put in the hours and effort required to start your own business, there’s a good chance that you are hoping to still be in business five years from now, ten years from now, twenty. So what do you see for that business long term?
Try to be specific. How many clients will you have each year? Where will those clients be? Will you establish a physical studio space that will grow over time? Would you eventually like to be traveling 80% of the year, creating images in exotic locales?
There’s a good chance that you’re not going to get everything you dream of in year one, but knowing where you want to go eventually will help you keep your eye on the prize and build an appropriate plan to reach your goals in the long term.
Okay, this one may just be in my business plan and clearly isn’t something you’d find in a business plan for, say, a dry cleaner. But, for me, I feel that part of being a professional photographer is being able to deliver a consistent product. I’ve written before about defining your visual style. I took the step of codifying my own visual style in words as part of my business plan. That allows me to not only deliver a consistent product, but keep those same visual characteristics in mind through all aspects of my business from branding, to social media feeds, to individual promo pieces. You may choose to skip this section in your plan, but I have found it to helpful in focusing my brain and creativity on a long term goal.
In our first two sections, we’ve discussed how to identify your product and how to set a long term vision for your company. In next week's post, we will discuss how to go about setting that plan into motion.